Friends of Animals needs the help of Arizona residents immediately to reach out to their state senators, including members of the Senate Committee on Federalism, Mandates and Fiscal Responsibility, and tell them to oppose HB2340, which would put management of the Salt River wild horses in the hands of the state. The bill will be considered by the committee on March 8, less than a week away.
The legislation codifies a cooperative approach for the management of the wild horses between the Salt River Wild Horse Management Group, the U.S. Forest Service and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Friends of Animals believes that the Salt River herd deserves federal protection; HB2340 is a costly and precedent-setting step in the wrong direction. HB2340 does not serve the interests of either the wild horses of Salt River, or the taxpayers of Arizona. You can find your senator here. (Members of the Committee on Federalism, Mandates and Fiscal Responsibility are: Nancy Barto; David Bradley; Judy Burges, chairman; Olivia Cajero Bedford; David Farnsworth, vice chairman; Andrew Sherwood and Steve Smith.)
Read our official comments below: Friends of Animals recognizes that the Salt River wild horse herd is beloved by the people of Arizona, and we support Arizona’s efforts to protect this historic herd from harassment, capture and slaughter.
However, we’d like you to consider four critical concerns regarding HB2340: (1) under federal law, Arizona has no legal authority to manage wild horses, (2) the horses would be managed by the County Sheriff, which has no expertise in protecting wild horses, (3) the legislation provides no funding to manage or to protect the herd, and (4) there are other opportunities to ensure that the citizens of Arizona can enjoy the Salt River herd for generations to come without establishing a precedent of claiming federal property for state use.
First, note that it’s well settled that wild horses are federal property and not subject to state jurisdiction; challenging this well-established principle would result in needless and expensive litigation, and would feed a troubling public perception that all federal public lands and resources, including wild animals, are subject to state control, or to no control at all.
Second, HB2340 would turn management of these horses over to the County Sheriff. Managing wild horses is clearly outside the expertise of the County Sheriff.
Third, protecting wild horses requires an understanding of their needs, including their need for suitable habitat. While HB2340 requires “enough area to allow the horses to maintain migratory patterns,” the County Sheriff doesn’t have the expertise to maintain a healthy wild horse herd on land subject to multiple competing uses like grazing, timber sales, and recreation.
Finally, and most troubling, HB2340 specifies that Arizona is “not obligated to pay for the management of the Salt River wild horse herd.” How will the County Sheriff manage the Salt River herd with absolutely no funding to do so? Arizona has run budget deficits for the last eight years. Surely the citizens of Arizona won’t want to choose between funding K-12 education and managing a herd of wild horses. If these horses are forced to rely on a State bureaucracy with no expertise in wild horse management, and absolutely no funding, the Salt River wild horses would be left with no protection from capture, harassment, or slaughter. Surely that’s not what the citizens of Arizona want for this historic herd.
Friends of Animals believes that the Salt River herd deserves Federal protection; HB2340 is a costly and precedent-setting step in the wrong direction. HB2340 does not serve the interests of either the wild horses of Salt River, or the taxpayers of Arizona. We therefore respectfully ask you to take action to reject HB2340. Sincerely,